Saturday, April 29, 2006

Canceling Cable Television

When we last left off, we were talking about saving money on utilities. As we've discovered, it takes some creative solutions because there's not a lot that can be done here. After all, you can't cancel your electricity. But you can cancel Cable TV...which is what I just did.

We had a bundle of services through our local cable TV provider: phone, high-speed Internet and Cable TV. There was some cost savings from using the bundle, but essentially bundles are a cleverly disguised way to sell you premium services. In our case, the cost of buying the basic services in our bundle would have been about the same as what we were paying. But, by putting it in a bundle we got call waiting, caller ID and 10 movie channels.

Before I made the decision to cancel, I priced a couple of other services from competitors and quickly found that this is NOT the easiest industry to deal with. The price for everything depends on what all you're buying. The more services you buy, the less each service costs...at least for a while. It seems like almost everything has an introductory price which jumps significantly after 1, 3, 6 or 12 months.

After a couple of days dealing with these hucksters, I decided to stay with the service I had...the devil you know is often better than the devil you don't. Besides, I've been generally happy with what I've got.

But I did cancel the Cable TV for a monthly savings of $58.85 once you take debt retirement into account. I kept the phone and high-speed Internet (can't live without either of those) and even ended up keeping call waiting and caller ID for the phone. It turns out that the two services were only an additional $2 per month since I paid for phone and Internet (that's one bundle I couldn't turn down). But, as the final insult to injury, the reduction in services was not reflected on my most recent bill and will be credited to the next one (which should be close to zero with the credit).

Our family has been without Cable for about two weeks now and I can't say we miss it much. In addition to the cost savings, we watch a lot less TV and read a lot more. Both good things in my book. My kids love Noggin, so for the week before we canceled Cable, we taped several days of programming.

Being without the Cable box has also led me to do some searching for online content. Some of my favorites are Christian music videos on JCTV, videos in the news from National Geographic, and the ABC World News Now podcast from TVTonic. I might have to put together and Internet TV post in order to encourage others to cancel cable and still be able to watch TV.

As for movies, we now get those from the public library. I can search their database of thousands of DVDs online, place a request for the title I want, indicate the library branch where I want to pick up the movie and they will call me when it's ready. Since it's a public library, I get it for one week and it doesn't cost me anything. They even let me know what's new each month.

So no, I don't miss cable TV...at least until the World Cup starts.

We set the phone and Internet bill set up on automatic payment through our new credit card, so add $0.45 for mailing costs, and our total monthly savings is $191.82 after going through about half of the line-items in our budget. Reflected anually, that is a savings of $2,301.84. I must say that I can see a big improvement in our cash-flow since I started this budget review process two months ago and I think it's going to get even better. Stay tuned for more.